The final outcome was a result that we did not need and with Tottenham winning their latter game at Carrow Road, it makes me very uncomfortable with the gap that is opening up slightly between us. This was a chance to move ahead of Chelsea into 4th spot. It ended up being as frustrating a match to watch.
Arsene Wenger as expected made changes to his line-up in view of the next few games. Theo Walcott was missing entirely (I thought to be deliberate earlier) and was supposedly down with illness. Aaron Ramsey sat on the bench as Yossi Benayoun and Tomas Rosicky were given a starting place. Miraculously, Johan Djourou made a quicker than expected return and played at right back.
Despite the changes in the attacking side of the team, we still had 73% possession and 27 shots on goal with 11 of them on target. Quite how we managed not to win this game is anyone’s guess. Credit’s given where credit is due. Wolves defended brilliantly and were very discipline with their shape. Wayne Hennessey had the game of his life and he’s not the first average keeper to do so at the Grove.
We got off to a brilliant start though and got the early that we needed. In the 8th minute Gervinho made the run between the lines and was perfectly found by Benayoun’s through ball. I must admit that given his propensity to miss in front of goal in recent weeks, I was not very confident that we could score here. But the Ivorian executed it well. Dragging the ball away from the diving Hennessey before calmly slotting it home.
From then on, we started to pile on the pressure. Robin Van Persie had chances to add to his incredible tally this season but failed to take his chances. The best opportunity was when Gervinho slid him through, in a position not too far from where we scored the first. The Dutchman snatched at it to send it wide, not realising his had plenty of time with no defenders around him.
For all the improvement that we’ve seen this season leading up to this point, it was the same failings of seasons’ past that came back to haunt us. A game that we were dominating with Wojciech Szczesny had as much to do as Ignasi Miquel sitting on the bench, yet somehow we allowed the opposing team back into the game. Wasting chances to put us ahead caused us all 3 points.
You just knew that we needed the second goal. As Wolves repels each attack of ours, their confidence grew. We allowed them to have a single shot on goal and they scored with that. A needless corner conceded and confusion ensued. Djourou clearance went straight to Stephen Hunt and his deflected shot somehow fell nicely for Steven Fletcher. Good solid guided header into the bottom corner. On replay, Szczesny was rather slow to react and get off the ground.
There were players under performing all around with Alex Song the leading that list. I’m sure there’s a special boots he wore, the one that tells his head that he’s an attacking midfielder. For most part of the 71 minutes that he was on the pitch, he was playing further ahead than Mikel Arteta. It was his actions that got him substituted. It seemed that Song failed to understand the learning from the early season 3 games ban. Kicking at the opposing player and reacting to the frustration of the score. He was lucky not to be sent off.
However, a Wolves player did get sent off. Nenad Milijas was shown the red card for a tackle on Arteta. Replay will show that Milijas clearly caught Arteta around the ankle with that sliding challenge. But it will also show that his foot did not leave the ground or neither was a two-footed challenge. Strange red card shown by Stuart Attwell who once again proved what an incompetent referee he is.
Playing with an additional man for the final 15 minutes of the game should have spark us into life and to that extend, we did. Shots went in from RvP, Mertesacker, Vermaelen and Arshavin but they were either saved by the keeper or went wide. On one occasion, the substitute Marouane Chamakh got in the way of RvP as both of them tried to head the ball. The fact that both got injured and had to leave the pitch for treatment was not even remotely funny.
I thought Wenger made a mistake with his substitutions. Wolves were crowding the middle out and the players we already had on the pitch or brought on tend to drift towards the centre. Gervinho was the only option who stayed wide to receive the ball. We needed another outlet on the opposite flank to pull the defenders away and create space but that did not happen. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain must be gutted not to get his chance.
It is now imperative that we get maximum points from the next 2 games. I hate to bring up old topics but we can’t hide from the fact that early season troubles meant that we cannot afford to drop silly points. Especially not those against sides who are struggling and are near the foot of the table.
Frustrating night for everyone.